Immigration Post-Brexit: Guest Columnist Jonathan Kingham on the Government’s Immigration White Paper

8 March 2019

Jonathan Kingham

Just before Christmas 2018, the UK government published some long-awaited details about its post-Brexit immigration plans.  In welcome news, a ‘no-deal notice’ broadly confirmed that it would enact the ‘settled status’ scheme for EU citizens and their family members already resident in the UK, even in a no-deal situation. Separately, its Immigration White Paper set out proposals for the immigration system that would apply to EU nationals (and others) arriving after the post-Brexit transition period. If the government does survive, and the Withdrawal Agreement is finally passed, the White Paper provides a good indication of what the future may hold.

As expected, the general theme is that visa requirements will be the same for EU and other non-British citizens. However, there may be some specific mobility provisions agreed between the EU and UK as part of the future relationship deal, and other more generous arrangements may also be agreed with ‘other low-risk countries’ in the context of trade agreements.

On work visas, there would be some significant relaxations to the current highly restrictive regime. These include:

  • no more numerical caps on skilled workers
  • no resident labour market test for new hires
  • a review and reduction of the current administrative burdens on sponsoring employers, with the aim to process most work visas within two to three weeks
  • reducing the skill level for new hire skilled workers (but not intra-company transferees) from graduate level to ‘A’ level or equivalent
  • consulting with businesses as to the exact minimum salary level that would apply, starting with a figure of £30,000 per annum

To reduce the immediate shock to employers who currently rely on ‘low-skilled’ EU workers, there would be a transitional (and time-limited) 12-month maximum visa available for short-term workers of any skill level, to be followed by a 12-month ‘cooling-off’ period during which they cannot return to work in this capacity. This would only be open to nationals of certain countries, e.g ‘low-risk’ countries - very likely to include EU Member States.

The proposals on self-employment are more limited, largely relying on Investors, Innovators and persons of ‘Exceptional Talent’. These routes would generally be for people with significant financial resources, business backing, or high-level skills, and there seems to be little for the ambitious entrepreneur who does not meet such stringent criteria. However, this may change following consultation, and there is certainly a strong focus on attracting innovation, in particular in the field of digital technology.


Jonathan Kingham works as a solicitor at SCC Member North Star Law. North Star Law is a Kensington-based law firm which provides intelligent, dynamic solutions to its clients’ legal problems.

This article was originally published in the February 2019 issue of our Member magazine, The LINK. Read the full magazine here.

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